The Bed (A short horror story)
In the summer of 2015, I finally decided to
talk to a therapist about my past. I'd hesitated for many years because
I didn't want to fill some innocent's head with my nightmares.
I know that sounds overly dramatic, but consider this: when most people
talk about parental abuse, it comes in predictable flavors. There are
types and kinds that a therapist has been trained to expect. And they
are taught that there is no evil in the world, only disturbed
individuals, and human weakness. Usually, in their work, therapists are
presented with knowable, tiny households of Hell. These are evils that
they can steel themselves against to hold your hand as you forge
dangerous waters seeking peace.
But sometimes, in the deeper depths, the water becomes too strange. As I
guess, this story is.
My little brother and I came home one day from school to find my parents
smiling oddly and looking disturbingly excited. In my memories, that
moment is etched in high contrast: shadow and light, and bright yellows
and reds. We glanced at each other, worried, as they announced that we
now had new beds. Hotel cast-offs, they said. Good quality beds. "Come
My little brother's room was the first we came to in the hallway. Still
smiling, they opened the door on a bare mattress. Across its top were
many splatters of dried blood. My brother mentioned it, finding it
creepy, but my parents ignored him, demanding that we both go on to my
bedroom, to see the other half of the set.
The door was already open. We walked in. And there it was. My new bed.
Dark, brownish-red stains of thick, dried blood covered more than 2/3rds
of its top surface. I looked at my parents. They were still smiling.
Dad said, "how do you like your new bed?"
My little brother was horrified, saying that this was wrong.
My father loomed over him, and asked, "do you want to trade beds with
your sister?" My brother recoiled. He looked at me, then at my father,
squeaked a "no" and fled to his own room. Both my parents looked at me
then, smiling. Expectant.
"Somebody died on this bed." I said.
I did not say more. I knew my father was deeply involved in organized
crime. I knew, but did not want to think about how he might have come
into possession of such... things. And my father said to me, in a voice
both calm and cruel, that these beds were nearly brand new, and of good
quality. And that there was nothing wrong with them. Nothing. And I
would sleep on it. I would accept it. And I better not complain.
My mother was still smiling when they left me alone to cover my new bed
with clean sheets.
In the beginning, I slept on the floor. But even sleeping on the floor
didn't hide the fact that I had the remains of a dead body in my room.
Every day it was there. I couldn't forget it. Sleeping on the floor did
not change anything.
After a while, I tried sleeping on the flip side, where there was less
blood and an almost clean section. I did it, hesitantly,
shamefully, because it seemed like such a ghoulish thing to do. And I
was surprised, in the morning, that a hole to Hell didn't open up in my
floor, that God did not crack lightning outside my window for
disrespecting the dead, and no ghost howled complaints in my ear as I
slept. Nothing changed. I seemed to be the only one who cared.
After that, I did sleep on it. Fitfully. For years.
The first few months, I only thought about it when I changed the sheets.
Mom often came into my room to watch. I guess it was fun for her.
And I ... became obsessed with filling my room with scented candles, air
fresheners, and incense. My therapist asked if there had been a smell. I
don't quite remember one. But my fetish for the floral scent makes me
think that there might have been something I was trying to ignore.
And mostly, I succeeded. With one small exception.
Shortly after I began sleeping on the bed, I wanted to find a way to
make peace with what I had to live with. I knew that likely the person
who had died on my bed had been murdered. I thought about their family.
And the rude, unmarked grave that that poor soul was likely buried in.
And I decided to say a prayer each night, to honor them, so that they
would not be forgotten.
But to my shame, I found very quickly, that I could not. I absolutely
could not. I found that even the mildest, quietest prayer made it all
too horrifically real. Even as a young teenager, I knew that it would
have pushed me over the edge. I asked God for forgiveness and tried to
not think about the blood anymore.
But the blood refused to be ignored. In time, it rotted the springs, the
bed began to sag, and jagged wire poked through the top.
I covered it with folded towels, duck taped the sharp daggers of metal,
and once every month or so, asked meekly if I could have a new bed. The
answer was always "no", and the bed continued to deteriorate.
By the time my father died, years later, I was sleeping mostly on folded
towels and duck tape. A few months after his death, Mom allowed me to
buy myself a new bed with money I'd saved from my day job. When I
wondered what to do with the old one, she said not to worry, and called
someone to pick it up. They came, within an hour, in a truck with a tarp
to throw over it. Quick, fast, quiet. And it was over.
The story of the bed, however, haunted my therapist. She kept bringing
it up over the following weeks. Seeking something. Maybe just a stronger
reaction from me over the bloody bed. But here, decades later, I feel
I tried to explain. It happened. I endured. And, sadly, the dark truth
is, you just get used to things, and life goes on.
She would look at me, without understanding, and after a while, I
stopped coming to see her.
Because, like the remnants of the bloody
bed burning on a bonfire, someplace years ago, eventually, there is
nothing left to say.
April 7, 2018 -- Teresa Challender